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Best Temperature for Pizza in Wood-burning Oven?

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We constantly get asked “how hot do your pizza ovens get?” and “how hot should your wood-burning oven be for pizza?”

When first firing up my oven for pizza it usually flames by the 1,022 degree max registered by the infrared thermometer. The thermometer then defaults to the helpful though vague display, “hot.”
Debate rages over the ideal heat for pizzas, and it depends on the size and style you’re baking. We talked with the team at Cherry Street about making pizza in their Texas Oven.

Interview with Janie Ramirez, Kitchen Manager at Cherry Street

Q.What temperature do you maintain in your oven when you’re doing pizzas and how long does it take them to cook?

A. 900 to 1,000 for pizzas that are about 11-12″ (depending on how the dough feels). At that temperature it takes about 60-90 seconds.

Q. I hear you recently changed your temperature. How hot were you running before?

A. 750-900. In that range pizzas could take up to 4 minutes if we were running on the cold side. The lower temperature makes a significant difference in the dough texture. At the lower temps the dough ends up more crackly, like a cracker.

If you run the oven really high you get this beautiful crust. When it is perfect, the outside is bubbled and crispy but the inside still has a softer chewy texture. To get both textures on a thin crust, the oven has to be very hot and the dough must be just right.

Q. Did you make changes to your dough when you started running the oven hotter?

A. Yes. We used to use a sourdough biga and now we use fresh yeast with a little bit of honey and molasses. The yeast eats the sugars in the honey and molasses giving it a wonderfully complex flavor and beautiful color. We also use a little bit of rye which adds character to the flavor.

Q. What are your most popular pizzas?

A. It changes all the time. Probably the Margarita. Our pizza choices are fairly consistent but we run daily pizza specials and it seems like as soon as I name a favorite something else gets popular.

Q. Other than your beautiful pizzas, what else should we know about Cherry Street’s food?

A. Every thing we sell is made by hand, every day. We roll pasta, pull mozzarella and make our dough every day. Absolutely everything is done from scratch.

Q. What else do you cook in your wood-burning oven besides pizzas?

A. We bake bread daily. We also use the wood-fired oven to to roast and to add a little smokiness. Any time we have a steak special we’ll use the high heat of the wood-fired oven to give us a beautiful sear and add some of that flavor.

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